Poll

How many people do you think there will be in orbit, elsewhere in space or on a planetary/lunar surface other than Earth - simultaneously - on December 31st 2030?

None
1-10
11-20
21-40
41-80
81-160
161-320
More than 320

Voting closes: 12/05/2022 01:50 pm


Author Topic: Poll: Number of people in low Earth orbit or beyond on December 31st 2030?  (Read 4092 times)

Offline sdsds

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It seems surprising how low the mode is. There could be that number of people in orbit on Dec 31, 2023!
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Offline deltaV

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I voted 1-10 but anywhere between 0 and 40 people in space seems plausible to me for a typical day in 2030. I only see more than 40 people in space happening for at most 60 days in 2030, not the whole year.

Offline Nemzoj Otikeun

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I tried adding up real/planned space stations from wikipedia:
*) 8 for Axiom - unless large schedule slip
*) 7 for ISS - unless major breakage
*) 4 for Starlab - unless Axiom and Orbital Reef succeed
*) 6-10 for Orbital Reef - if New Glenn launches enough Kuipers
*) 6 for Tiangong - if China do minimal upgrades from current capacity of 3
*) 3 for an Indian space station - if low schedule slippage
*) 4 for LOP-G - If an Artemis mission gets scheduled for the right date
*) 2 for ROSS - if wishes were horses

Current plan for ISS is funded for 2030, deorbit in 2031. I think NASA will rent from about two commercial space stations so I would not bet on both Starlab and Orbital Reef. If Starlab looks uncertain I think Nanoracks will make a deal with Axiom or Blue. ISRO is not planning continuous occupation for their proposed space station but I think they will rent out space to visitors with their own rides to orbit.

That gives somewhere between 15 and 40 people in orbit - not counting transients. Next: Guess the Starship numbers. I will leave out the sub-orbital hops. If successful, those will also eat the market for Vomit Comets, New Shepard and Virgin Galactic. The next step up would getting a ride on a Crew Starship visiting one of the space stations. Tourists might or might not visit the space station while Starship provides extra crew rotation for astronauts. One day, one of those Starships will get stuck in LEO because of a damaged heat shield. I think it will be refitted as a LEO Hotel - the next step up holiday destination from a crew rotation ride share. The real step up will be a proper Moon base: Crew Starship doing Earth to Lunar orbit and back, HLS Starship doing Lunar Orbit to the Moon and back and a dead HLS Starship as a Lunar base. I think trips around the Moon will be dead by 2030 but tourists on a ride share with lunar base crew rotation could be a thing.

I am assuming the tourist market provides opportunities for LEO crew rotation rather than the other way around and that most tourists will be happy with a few days in orbit rather than the minimum duration stay at a space station. I will guess 12 people in Hotel LEO Starship, 12 in the Christmas / New Year crew rotation Starship, 12 astronauts on the Moon and 0 in transit to/from the International Moon Base.

The 41-80 range looks good to me but so does 11-160.

Offline mikelepage

It seems surprising how low the mode is. There could be that number of people in orbit on Dec 31, 2023!

I’m surprised too, especially given the number of SpaceX watchers on the site. I honestly don’t think my guess of 41-80 is super optimistic at all.

I guess it could be the way I asked the question - I thought making the groups factors of 2 multiplied by 10, would be a reasonable way to get a sense for ROM.

Offline freddo411

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I voted 21 - 40.   I think 8 years is a bit short where we will see large numbers of people in space

8 years away is an interesting future look ahead.   It's nearly short enough that programs that are flying then, will have to be under design/construction now.   However, it's far enough out that things can change rather significantly.

8 years before today was 2014.   Did anyone foresee SX flying 60 flights a year, operating more satellites than all of the rest of the world combined in a billion dollar communication business? (wow!)

The success of starship is the most important factor in this prediction.   Is it successfully and safely launching and returning people in 2030?    If it is (and i think it will), then there could be 100s of people off earth.   If Starship is not a reliable people mover by then, then the numbers will likely be in the low tens.    I think the financial viability of any of the commercial stations rests on cheap flights to orbit (much cheaper than dragon or other hypothetical vehicle)

I'm interested in everyone's "wild" or unlikely predictions.   What might be an X factor that could appear before 2030 that is not evident now?   My unlikely wildcard is continental point to point delivery service




Offline AmigaClone

I voted 21 - 40.   I think 8 years is a bit short where we will see large numbers of people in space

8 years away is an interesting future look ahead.   It's nearly short enough that programs that are flying then, will have to be under design/construction now.   However, it's far enough out that things can change rather significantly.

8 years before today was 2014.   Did anyone foresee SX flying 60 flights a year, operating more satellites than all of the rest of the world combined in a billion dollar communication business? (wow!)

The success of starship is the most important factor in this prediction.   Is it successfully and safely launching and returning people in 2030?    If it is (and i think it will), then there could be 100s of people off earth.   If Starship is not a reliable people mover by then, then the numbers will likely be in the low tens.    I think the financial viability of any of the commercial stations rests on cheap flights to orbit (much cheaper than dragon or other hypothetical vehicle)

I'm interested in everyone's "wild" or unlikely predictions.   What might be an X factor that could appear before 2030 that is not evident now?   My unlikely wildcard is continental point to point delivery service

My 'wild' prediction would involve Starship being rated as capable of launching crew faster and more successfully than I currently expect it. The prediction would have several parts:

1) Circa 40-80 people split between Geocentric and Selenocentric (Lunar) orbits.
2) About 20-40 people living on the moon between a Chinese surface base and a base built by SpaceX and at least partially funded by Jared Isaacman as a Mars pathfinder. The SpaceX Lunar Base proposal ironically would be one rejected by NASA.
3) About 20-40 people living on Mars.
4) Not sure about the timing. If there is an launch window from Mars to Earth in the correct timeframe, up to 10 individuals in a Starship returning to Earth - with some samples taken from near SpaceX's landing site.
5) Up to 3 Starships on 'Year end cruise' with 10-20 tourists on each.

The optimistic view could have nearly 1000 people in LEO or beyond 31 December 2040.

Offline IsaacKing

The record as of now is 19 people in space at once. https://www.arcaneknowledge.org/science/spaceflt.htm has a nice graph up to the end of 2020 showing how gradual the increase has been. (Though it's started going up faster in the past 2 years.)

Judging by how frequently space missions are delayed (https://xkcd.com/2014/) and how often they encounter unexpected problems and/or run over-budget, I'm quite skeptical that we'll have a functioning lunar base by then. A mission to Mars seems plausible, but I wouldn't expect it to have more than ~10 people. So the primary factor is people in orbit along with any suborbital transport. I do see space tourism catching on in popularity, and SpaceX has floated around the idea of surface-to-surface transport by Starship. (e.g. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/04/us-military-rocket-cargo-program-for-spacexs-starship-and-others.html)

But that's still going to be a rich person's pastime, there's no way to make that economical with only chemical rockets. Given that the question isn't "what's the most people who will ever be in space at once by the end of 2030" but rather "how many people will be in space on that exact day", I think anywhere from 10-50 is reasonable.

Of course the speed of technological progress and social upheaval has been increasing, and a paradigm-shifting breakthrough in the next 7 years is not out of the question. (e.g. artificial intelligence improving to the point where it can design new spacecraft and related technology faster and more effectively than humans can, a new space race emerging between the US and China, or a nuclear war.) But given the difficulty of predicting the actual impact of such a change, I'm choosing to excluding it from my analysis.

If anyone's interested, there's a prediction market on a similar question here:

https://manifold.markets/IsaacKing/will-there-be-100-people-in-space-a

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